By on 7.23.20 in Education

This blog is the second in a series exploring myFutureNC’s statewide dashboard indicators, which span the educational continuum. Read the complete series.

 

This week, we’ll be going in depth on two similar indicators – College-and-Career-Ready in reading and math. Although we provide detailed information on NC, national data on the percent of 3-8 grade students who earned college-and-career-ready scores on End-of-Grade (EOG) reading and math exams are not available, and therefore we cannot compare North Carolina to other states.

What does College-and-Career-Ready mean?

According to the Hunt Institute, students are college-and-career-ready “…when they have knowledge and academic preparation needed to enroll and succeed, without the need for remediation, in introductory college credit-bearing courses in English language arts and mathematics within an associate or baccalaureate program.” This definition was developed in 2012 by the NC Ready for Success Steering Committee, consisting of individuals from the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), the UNC System, and the NC Independent Colleges and Universities System. Although this definition describes what students should know prior to graduation, college-and-career-readiness is a process that begins (and is assessed) at various points prior to the start of high school.

In October 2013, the State Board of Education adopted college-and-career readiness standards for the EOG tests to ensure that students, as they progress through grade levels, are on track to be college-and-career-ready. The rationale is that schools, teachers, and parents have opportunities to identify students who are not ready and offer necessary supports and assistance. Schools have focused on college-and-career-readiness because research has found that many students leave high school unprepared for postsecondary education and career opportunities. Currently, about a third of US students need remedial education when they start college.

How is College-and-Career-Readiness assessed?

North Carolina administers EOG tests to students in Reading (Grades 3 to 8), Mathematics (Grades 3 to 8), and Science (Grades 5 to 8). The purpose of these exams is to measure student performance on goals, objectives, and grade-level competencies specified by DPI’s curriculum, content, and instruction standards.

EOG reading exams are scored on a scale from Level 1 to Level 5. Students are considered “college-and-career-ready” if they score at a Level 4 (solid command of knowledge and skills) or Level 5 (superior command of knowledge and skills). A Level 3 score indicates that the student meets on-grade-level proficiency, but not that they are college-and-career ready. Students with a Level 1 or 2 score are considered to be below grade level. EOG math exams are scored on a scale of not proficient, 3, 4, or 5. Scores of 4 and 5 are considered to be college-and-career-ready, while scores of 3 are considered to be meeting on grade proficiency standard. Scores of not proficient are considered to be below grade level.

What does the federal government require in terms of “college-and-career-readiness”?

EOG tests are federally mandated as part of the national Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA requires an annual assessment for children in grades 3 through 8 in math and English language arts and once in high school, as well as three times in science. All schools are required to test 95% of their students. It is important to note that although ESSA requires states to assess math and literacy skills aligned with content standards in grades 3 to 8, there is no overarching federal definition of college-and-career readiness. Because of the emphasis on these skills, however, almost every state has joined a state-led initiative to develop a core set of standards (and corresponding tests) that reflect what students need to know after high school (see adopted definition of college-and-career-readiness above). Because of a lack of uniformity across the country, however, students considered college-and-career-ready or proficient in one state may not be in another state if given the same assessment.

In June of 2017, the North Carolina State Board of Education adopted the NC Standard Course of Study, which defined the appropriate content standards for each grade or proficiency level in order to provide uniformity across NC public schools. In 2017-2018, the State Board of Education led development and adoption of the EOG Reading tests. In 2019-2020, the first operational administration of the EOG Reading tests occurred and in 2018-19, the first operational administration of the EOG mathematics tests occurred.

During the current school year, North Carolina was selected for the Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority (IADA) program, which allows states to develop and pilot new tests on a small-scale and develop strategies for implementing the tests statewide over time. Instead of testing only at the end of the school year, NC’s IADA plan will allow students to be tested three times over the year, so that teachers can receive feedback on student performance and then personalize learning for students. The goal is to fully implement this plan by the 2023-24 school year.

Why is it important for students to be designated as College-and-Career-Ready in reading and math?

By 2030, the goal is to have 73% of students in grades 3 to 8 earn college-and-career-ready scores in reading. In 2019, 45% of students earned college-and-career-ready scores. Reading proficiency has been found to be a critical skill needed to successfully advance along the educational continuum. According to the Children’s Reading Foundation, up to half of the printed fourth-grade curriculum is incomprehensible to students who read below the third-grade level. This means that students who are not proficient in reading at the by fourth grade do not have the foundation necessary to learn other subjects, such as mathematics and science. Additionally, research has shown that approximately 16% of children who are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade do not graduate high school on time – a rate that is four times greater than that for proficient readers. Researchers have also found that eighth grade reading scores are predictive of success on the ACT exam, as well as admission to a UNC system school.

By 2030, the goal is to have 86% of students in grades 3 to 8 earn college-and-career-ready scores in math. In 2019, only 41% of students earned these scores. Math proficiency has been found to be a very significant predictive of later achievement in school. Specifically, a 2007 research study found that the strongest predictors of later achievement in school were early reading, math, and attention skills. Among these three, however, math was the strongest predictor. In addition, research has found that students who complete higher levels of math in high school experience lower rates of unemployment and receive higher salaries, on average, than their peers; high school math completion is dependent on successful math abilities and learning during younger grades. Given that the overall goal of the myfutureNC initiative is to help more citizens obtain a postsecondary degree or credential, increasing the number of students who obtain college-and-career ready reading and math scores is critical.

In addition to being important to the academic outcomes of individual students, college-and-career readiness on EOG reading and math affect the overall community as well. Math and reading EOG scores factor into school performance scores[1] (available via the NC School Report Cards data dashboard) and affect overall school letter grades, ranging from A to F. School letter grades influence the ability of schools to attract and retain high-quality teachers, are used as justification for the creation of charter schools and school choice options, and potentially economically affect a community (through higher or lower home values/sales).

Reading and math proficiency is strongly linked to student outcomes

It is very important that students be college-and-career ready in both math and reading in order to progress successfully through school and subsequently obtain a credential or degree. Although assessment of the college-and-career-ready benchmark differs across states, research shows that reading and math proficiency, at a minimum, is strongly linked to student outcomes. MyFutureNC’s goal of measuring progress on math and reading college-and-career-readiness provides an important benchmark in understanding how students progress along the educational continuum and ultimately achieve postsecondary degrees and credentials.

[1] School performance scores are calculated using the school achievement score (accounts for 80% of calculation) and the school growth score (accounts for 20% of calculation. School achievement scores are calculated using the percentage of students who score at or above proficient on EOG reading tests in grades 3 through 8.

 


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